Yonex’s Z series rackets always push the boundaries. The original Z racket, the Arcsaber Z-Slash, which contributed to a new world smash record was crazy smooth and had incredible speed if only you could time it right. We had the OG Voltric Z-Force 1 which was an absolute beast in terms of power and head-heaviness. If you want Thor’s hammer, this is it! Then came the legendary second-generation Voltric Z-Force 2. Wow! I do not have enough superlatives for this bad boy, but damn it's demanding to play with. Finally, the Yonex Nanoray Z-Speed. Another smash speed world record. Enough said.
Can you see what’s coming for this Nanoflare 1000Z? Will we be getting another world record of some kind anytime soon?
For those who think the Nanoflare 1000Z would be a replacement for the Voltric Z-Force 2 or the Nanoray Z-Speed, sorry to break your hearts as it is neither. So let's find out what's special about it.
First, thank you to Yonex for sending me a Nanoflare 1000Z for testing. I’ve been playing and training with it extensively and have had quite a lot of hitting hours on it. Also, thumbs up to the Yonex marketing guys for ramping up the hype for this racket launch with the black teaser racket used by 4 high profile players --- Carolina Marin, He Bing Jiao, Lakshya Sen and Wang Chilin --- at the All England. It certainly caught many people’s attention, including mine. I do have to admit that I needed time to adjust to the fact that the Nanoflare 1000Z doesn't come in black but in lightning yellow. I don’t know about you guys but the more I look at the racket every day, the more I like its colour scheme. Its holographic centre shaft indeed reminds me of my holographic Pokemon cards all those years ago!
Visually, the new Nanoflare 1000Z certainly has the Nanoflare 700-style frame where the frame is thick on the sides. In fact, it has the thickest frame I’ve ever measured thus far on my spreadsheet, but you will quickly notice the strip of speed assist bumper on the 5 and 7 o'clock regions. Yonex claims this speed assist bumper reduces frame warp and improves repulsion performance. I’ll tell you if I can feel that later on.
Obviously, as a top-end Nanoflare racket designed for speed, the 1000Z’s frame is fully recessed all the way through. Additionally, it has a 2-tone design on its frame. Not sure if it’ll come across well on camera but at the 2 to 4 o'clock and the 8 to 10 o'clock regions, it has a glossy finish whilst everywhere else is matte, except that the shaft is holographic.
There are also little easter-eggs-looking shapes on the decals all over its frame and little lightning bolts around the 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 o'clock regions. Take any one of them out and it’ll fit into the big purple 'Z' that’s in the middle of the shaft.
Speaking of the purple 'Z', I’ve been asked many times if it's a double 'Z'? or a single fat 'Z'. What do you think? I’ll let you guys decide on that, let me know in the comments below.
In terms of its shaft, it has the usual massive T joint area, as do most of the Nanoflare series. It looks pretty hefty and reassuring, to be honest, so why not? Also, the handle of the Nanoflare 1000Z feels a bit longer than usual. In fact, it is the longest racket handle I’ve ever come across from Yonex measuring at 18cm. I’ve only ever measured 2 other rackets from Yonex with an 18cm handle and they were the Astrox 100 Tour and ZX.
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In terms of measured specs, the frame of the Nanoflare 1000Z has a shaft length of 21cm and a shaft diameter of 7.1mm. This is slightly thicker than I expected as for example, the Astrox 88S and Astrox 88D Pro have shafts of 6.6mm whilst the Astrox 100ZZ came in at 6.3mm. Although 7.1mm is pretty standard nowadays and it's not unique to the Nanoflare 1000Z. Perhaps Yonex wanted more material on the shaft to ensure that it's extra stiff.
In terms of frame, the Nanoflare 1000Z has a relatively smaller frame with its compact frame design to increase its speed. Its frame has a height of 23.4cm and a width of 18.5cm. Compare this to the Yonex Nanoflare 700, which has a frame height of 24cm and a width of 18.7cm, the Nanoflare 700 is both taller and wider so you would also expect a bigger sweet spot on the Nanoflare 700. For frame thickness, it is 12.7mm around the 3 and 9 o'clock region and reduces to 12.4mm around the 10 and 2 o'clock region, with a fully recessed frame design.
Top-end Yonex rackets are almost always made in Japan and it's no different for the Nanoflare 1000Z. The Nanoflare 1000Z which I have for testing is in 4U G5 and it's rated 28 lbs for tension. I understand that the 3U version is rated 29 lbs for tension. Additionally, Yonex recommends pairing the Nanoflare 1000Z with the Exbolt 65 strings for power and Aerobite for control. I chose to string it with Aerobite, as that’s my current favourite string, and decided to go with the green one this time round. I strung it on my usual tension of 27lbs by 29lbs and the Nanoflare 1000Z held really well.
Now to the most important part --- how does the Nanoflare 1000Z play? Well, I personally think it’s pretty intense and quite different to my usual Astrox 88D Pro. I certainly had a steep learning curve as I try to work with this racket but it all depends on how you set it up. Let me explain.
First of all, this racket is not head-heavy. Like I said earlier on, if you think this is a Z-Force 2 replacement, it's not. It's actually quite head light! So much so that I think it's head-lighter than the Arcsaber 11 Pro and perhaps around the same head weight as the Arcsaber 7 Pro. Or maybe even just a touch head lighter than the 7 Pro.
When I first switched from my usual Astrox 88D Pro to the Nanoflare 1000Z, I immediately noticed the difference in head weight, and the difference is really significant. However, because of its head-lightness, the Nanoflare 1000Z is fast, very fast.
But speed is not its biggest attraction. The Nanoflare 1000Z feels so crispy! It's down to that extra stiff shaft with the smaller, stiffer, fast frame. Because I was coming from my Astrox 88D Pro with strings that were pretty well bedded in, the 1000Z’s super responsive and sharp feel threw me off a little. I had to relearn my gripping timing as everything just shoots off incredibly quickly as soon as the shuttle comes in contact with the string. Granted, I played with the Nanoflare 1000Z a day after I had strung it so the strings were very fresh and hadn't had the time to bed in.
If you’re familiar with Formula 1 analogies, this Nanoflare 1000Z is an oversteery racket with super sharp response whereas the Astrox and Arcsabers are generally understeery rackets with milder responses. For non-Formula 1 fans, I likened the freshly strung-tight Nanoflare 1000Z to playing with a ping pong ball on a squash court. That ping pong ball is gonna shoot off crazy fast as soon as you come into contact with it. I cannot imagine how incredible the repulsion performance will be if paired with the Exbolt 65 --- I might experiment with this once I break my Aerobite strings.
So my first 2 hours of singles with the Nanoflare 1000Z weren't too great as I struggled to control the shuttle and everything just shot off the racket, especially any holding and flicking at the front court. Anything off the sweet spot will die and you can't get out of trouble. I did not notice the smaller head size at all but did notice the difference in timing needed for my shots. If you catch it right, brilliant, if you catch it wrong, ouch.
Because of how responsive the racket was, holding the racket handle at different lengths had such a big impact on me. I would hold a racket with my thumb around the cone area for serving, and for any rear-court shots, I would move my grip towards the back of the racket for more leverage.
Due to its low head weight, the Nanoflare 1000Z in 4U might not be the easiest racket to play with in singles as you will need to generate a lot of power through clean technique yourself. So do bear in mind that if you are not technically very strong, you will not be able to generate much power with it.
A few days after my first testing session, I did another round of testing. This time, I tested it in a couple of doubles games, and was immediately blown off my feet! It was so lovely and so much fun!! As it's such as fast racket with a crisp response, it was excellent and I felt a stark difference from the experience I had with my initial 2 hours of singles. Granted, I felt myself really wanting just that little bit more head heaviness to the Nanoflare 1000Z as it will add some stability to my shots, especially those off-sweet spot shots so I added a few strips of my Premium Racket Protection Tape and voila, it did the job.
You can clearly see how much shuttle this racket has seen with the amount of scuffs, nicks and even paint from stencil inks on the shuttle corks onto the protection tapes. If you really like stiff, very responsive, fast racket then you will absolutely love the Nanoflare 1000Z. Defence and counterattacking with this racket are so lovely, especially when you get the bite of the shuttle. I think you’ll enjoy that perfectly timed drive to your opponent's court next time playing with this. I’m not too sure it's the easiest singles racket to play with although you will love this for doubles!
By the time I got to the 6th or 7th hour of playing with the Nanoflare 1000Z, I have become a fan of the racket. Once my strings had the time to calm down and bed in, it was a lot better as I was able to feel the bite of the shuttle instead of them just pinging off like crazy initially. Even off-centre shots become a lot more manageable.
So here’s my advice for those of you who are looking to purchase the Nanoflare 1000Z. As with all other previous Z series rackets, you will face a steep learning curve before you get the hang of it. If you are not used to very crispy and responsive rackets, try dropping a pound or two on your string tension. This will give you a better chance at controlling the shuttle when you are playing with this racket. Otherwise, be prepared to struggle in your first session with fresh strings as you will find that everything shoots off rapidly.
Furthermore, as with all stiff rackets and strings, they are demanding when it comes to their players' physicality, technique and timing. So if you are not particularly strong or skilled, I would, again, recommend dropping a couple of pounds on your strings to start with.
Overall, out of all the Z series rackets that I’ve had (and mind you, I have owned every single Z series racket that Yonex has ever produced), the Nanoflare 1000Z is the best thus far. I really love its speed, stiffness and crisp response. I’m hoping to get my hands on a 3U model to test and see if it's any better at singles. Would the 3U weight class lose the racket some of its speed? Watch this space!